Kristina Ruehli, 75, was scheduled to make a witness statement at Bill Cosby’s sentencing hearing Monday. Back in 2005, when she came forward with allegations that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted her, she chose to remain anonymous; now, Ruehli said, the thought of facing her past does not ruffle her.
“I knew I was telling the truth about what I remember. Even under scrutiny, you have a sense of calm because the truth is behind you,” she told The Washington Post.
Cosby’s sentencing hearing comes on the same day that Christine Blasey Ford was initially set to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to testify about the assault she alleged Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh committed against her when they were in high school.
Ruehli drew comparisons between her own case and Ford’s, and offered words of support.
Ruehli said that Cosby assaulted her in 1965 and that she mostly moved on, though the memory occasionally resurfaced. In 2005, she anonymously spoke up after a Pennsylvania woman, Andrea Constand, sued Cosby, alleging an attack reminiscent of her own, and was one of 60 women to go public nine years later.
After Ruehli’s accusations were published in Philadelphia Magazine, Cosby’s attorney slammed the women, calling their accusations “unsubstantiated, fantastical stories about things they say occurred 30, 40, or even 50 years ago.”
Ford’s critics — including President Trump and several Republican senators who will participate in the hearing — also have attacked her credibility with like-minded arguments.
“I can’t imagine what Dr. Ford is going through right now. I was swimming without a life raft, but at least I had 59 other women to divert attention,” Ruehli said.
In 1965, during the era of crooners and comedians, Cosby was weeks into filming “The Hollywood Palace” and Ruehli was 22, living paycheck to paycheck as she worked in the legal department of a top-tier California talent agency.
Cosby, while working on “I Spy,” strolled through the office one Thursday and invited everyone in the room to his house, for an after-shoot party, Ruehli said. When she arrived that evening, the only other guest was an agency client and aspiring actress.
Ruehli says she sipped through her first bourbon and Seven, on ice. Cosby returned with a refill. “When I drank it, I thought: ‘Wow,’ and that’s the last thing I remember,” she recalled.
Ruehli says she awoke beside a nude Cosby, who was “waiting for her,” edging her head toward his groin. She quickly realized that she was about to be sick. That, she said, saved her.
“I had no idea what happened, but I was vomiting in the bathroom when I realized I was naked. I remember feeling horrified and ashamed, and that I must have embarrassed myself at the party,” Ruehli said.
She collected her shoes, nylons and dress, and left. By then, Cosby was gone from the room. Ruehli showered and went to work. She never saw him again.
Ruehli said there was really nothing to report — she had not been violated other than someone undressing her and, feeling she was to blame, she moved on with her life, as did Ford.
“I have lived with that story my whole life,” Ford said in an interview with The Post before her name became public. “I’ve moved on. I have done wonderful things and have a great career and a great community.”
Ruehli moved from California to the East Coast, taking a position on Wall Street. Physical distance from the opposite coast provided a satisfying sense of safety.
But, Ruehli said, “things long buried pop up out of the recesses of a mind long wanting to bury it in the first place.”
For her, the first time was in the mid-1980s, as her daughter entered her teens. Ruehli discovered her watching “The Cosby Show” at home.
“I turned it off and told her what had happened to me,” she said. “I told her to warn her.” Ruehli also shared the details with her husband. They all shrugged it off as a distant memory. Besides, she added, she wasn’t raped.
The second time that memory of the incident surfaced was in 2005.
Ruehli learned of a Pennsylvania lawsuit filed against Cosby. Constand, the plaintiff, alleged an assault akin to the one she alleged. Much like Ford, Ruehli said she felt a sense of responsibility.
“When another woman said something similar had happened to her, I spoke up. The right thing to do was say, ‘Me too,’ ” said Ruehli, an “original #MeToo-er.”
But at the time, she was not ready to step into the public sphere with her story, despite the distance offered by 40 years. Unbeknownst to Ruehli, she was not the only one. Twelve other women — who became known as “the Jane Does” — also had come forward, all anonymously.
The lawsuit took a sharp turn when Cosby was deposed. He settled with Constand for over $3 million. The Jane Does, none of whom had reported the assaults after they occurred years earlier, did not have an opportunity to testify.
Ruehli was not compelled to revisit her Cosby experience until 2014, when comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during his act. Suddenly, the accusation was ablaze. Sixty women came forward. Only then did Ruehli identify herself.
Coming forward without the cloak of anonymity, was “traumatic,” she said. “It was all over the news, I wasn’t prepared for that.”
After she spoke with Philadelphia Magazine, she said, there were crowds of people outside her home around the clock, waiting for her to walk to her mailbox or car.
But the media, she said, was fighting to tell her story, not attack it. And she had a buffer between 2005 and 2014 — when she came forward anonymously and when she identified herself — to become “resilient.”
Nine years later, she was no longer frightened. Ford has had less than a week.